Hopkins Sequence

by Kate Bernadette Benedict


His Dryness

Punishment: the birch, the riding whips,
the strained panting of the headmaster, and smacking lips,
and you, Gerard, most Godgifted of all
Highgate, poisoned by the promise in you: gall.
Amansstrength-lashed, in spite of being small.
Prevail a while: find mastery, though flesh rips.

You’re seaman-sturdy, so!, you make a bet,
a three-weeks’ free-made agon to bear thirst.
Dryness the drive of it, dryness sole the goal,
no juice or drop in all a world of wet,
blacktongue-parched, wretchèd-scorched of soul.
And that was the launch of it, pinch of it, that was the first.


Dolben Magnificat

I remember a boy whose gleamglass soul
     Reflected me, who, ah, who, gazed into it deep,
     And gaze of his pierced past my padlocked keep:
My heart in hiding stormed—or fanned perhaps, as coal.

In Christ we two were tied, as well we would,
     In Christ, our fair and furious passions fused.
     Thence the release of it, manshape all suffused:
We, wrecked or roused or wrung, beneath Him stood.

Fearsome the grasp that I alone, not he,
composed the lovehymn.. Not he, never we!—
     And I whose hamfist playing’s all to blame!

God, maestro of souls, master of measure and key,
Make tuned thy instrument, child then, ruined me:
     Whose selfstuff’s all accursèd and ashamed.
     


His Six-Months’ Custody of the Eyes

as a young novice


Gentle Hop, are you nodding,
Eyes cast down, austerely plodding?
Blind to all that splendor near you,
Blind to landscape, inscape, are you?
You? Is your faith so zealous,
Your heav’nly Father sorely jealous
Of and for, His own galore
That you of all men prize and shore?
And yet you look down, and shun more.
Bow your head then, peer at nought
Beauty charms but beauty’s fraught:
When eyes yearn, then spirit’s stressed,
Resolve’s undone by soul’s unrest.
It is not right for priests to burn so.
It is Gentle Hop you spurn so.


Endeavor Ends

To be downdaunted lies my lot, these ventures
Thwarted. My Deutschland dear, called queer and crude,
All-reading-eye-unfathomed, misconstrued—
I wave red rag and yield now to all censures.

Better, I deem, to disavow this reaching,
Bold-better! to obey the canon’s bell,
Abide the hairshirt, self-scourge in cold cell—
For all abhor my poems and my preaching.

And yet, shall I, do dare I, Lord, stay firm,
Not let despair untwist fine strands of flash in me,
Not feed my lines to the sepulchral worm?

They kindle—do they not?—the arid ash in me.
I cede them hence to Thee, warder theirs, and germ.
Ah, am I stallion-swift still, is there dash in me?


A Pool So Pitch Black

Liverpool


Soot-stained, soil-spoiled, spit-smeared, scandalous, ﺍ bleary, bituminous,
     … tremendous
Squalor reigns in gríme’s crámmed ﺍ hub-of-all, hole-of-all, hell-of-all slum
Where blow-billow smokestacks blot black the sky, ﺍ where scurvid
     and starving and dissolute come,
Haste; here dreariest mars, manmars, ﺍ mars manifest, rend-torment us,
Sin-sullying ever. Foul filth, ﺍ its essence is all around, its
     moulder is at a bloom, as-
pray or aflood, within-all, withal; ﺍ full and fell
     sour the mash is—scum
A heart-withering, God-smothering ﺍ crust now. Gloom, you have
     me hum
So: Vile taint oozes through us, me rather, ﺍ seeps, weeps
     a steady pus.

Lonely in swarmdense frenzied parish ﺍ I tell in highstrung
     futile pulpit
Gospel I waver on. Mary immaculate, ﺍ fond mother of me,
     how shall I last
This dismal, drained, feigned, spite-soul-reinèd duty! ﺍ Given in gold
     cup, rank gall, I gulp it.
What’s hope this spell but lark-caged and throat-slashed ﺍ or heart’s
     wimpling wing held fast
By gross glue. And more must, as O massive, ﺍ as O blind lionjaws
     hungrily pulp it.
Carrier-witted I once was, lit by, alit by, stirred by ﺍ mild dove
     but He quavered and passed.


To His Portraitist

     Of late I’ve become
          Haggard and frail
Dull-eyed, careworn, though the hair is fair,
     And couple-coloured some.

     Longer in tooth
          Squatter in spine—
“T’would be a counterfeit most benign
     To paint me in youth.


The Lingering Out

These years all flashed and spent, world without event, while without recompense!
What shape of man is he whose missteps wreck so, trick his stable strides,
Whose every sally’s sullied by failure, fully the slender ones swords in sides.
As now a last poem bleeds from my poor pen, inkleaking, in trickling tides.

Contagion!: I fail once more, I am prey of a (pray for me) base pestilence,
Typhus, borne that way we know, sewer-surgèd foam, on a foam it rides:
Disease, a deggèd doggèd thing, a thievery, a keeper also; it abides.
I succumb to it. Ah, here is a grace perhaps, here is a lovely providence.

This being sick, it assuages the mind, it rests the spirit its futile exploits.
Father, brother that is, light the beeswax, tender me extreme anoints,
Untie me at last, for there are, have been alway, heavy irons binding me.

I am happy, so happy! Me, no one, wayward one, me He appoints
And I am happy: simple, ample word I utter at last. Who there, what there? Who points?
What hand is that, whose cordial open palm? Whose finger, finally finding me?